Scope and Content

The records of the manor of Reigate include four conveyances of the Earl of Nottingham's moiety and later conveyances and settlements (371/1/-); four overlapping series of court rolls (rolls, 1532-1706; indexed volumes, 1571-1675 and 1767-84; unbound copies, 1663-1749; and drafts, 1707-17); three surveys, 1623-1700, and a rental, 1717; and bundles of court papers (371/2/-).

The records of the manor of Reigate Priory (371/3/-) include conveyances, 1719-1825, two court rolls, 1572-93, and 1784-1811, and a rental, 1807.

The burgage deeds (371/4/- to 371/8/-) relate to most of the tenements recognized by Bryant. For many of them the sequence begins in the late 17th century, for one (Bryant no.203) in the early 15th. Many original deed bundles were found intact, or could be reconstructed. The state of the polls (371/13/3) includes deed bundle numbers of Lord Somers' properties, and these were found on the documents. The order of the numbers appears to be haphazard, bearing no relation for example to the geographical position of the properties, though adjacent numbers sometimes indicate properties bought in one transaction. There may have been a plan of the borough on which these numbers were shown, but it has not come to light.

Among these deeds, of particular interest are a lease, release and bond of 1740 (371/6/34a-c) which bear three applied seals showing Dr Henry Sacheverell (1674-1724), the notorious Tory high churchman who was tried in 1710, a church and Queen Anne. Two of the parties, William Goulding and William Glassbrooke, were hop factors from St Saviours Southwark, the parish of which Sacheverell was elected chaplain in 1709; in the parish the brewers and allied tradesmen were noted for high church leanings (see Geoffrey Holmes, The Trial of Doctor Sacheverell (London, 1973): Holmes describes the brisk trade in pictures and other souvenirs of the Doctor at the height of his notoriety).

Also included in the deposit is a group of records relating to estate administration in general and other properties and interests of the Somers, Cocks and Yorke families, in Reigate and elsewhere (371/9/- to 371/12/-). These include the deed of settlement by which the vicar of Reigate, Andrew Cranston, transferred to trustees (including John Lord Somers) the parish library which he founded in 1701 (371/11/1), with an attached catalogue of the library's contents.

371/13/- includes papers of John, Lord Somers, relating to Treasury records, 1699, strays from the main body of his papers in 371/14/-; it also includes papers relating to the parliamentary election dispute of 1785-6.

371/14/- comprises papers of John, Lord Somers, (1651-1716), a dominant Whig politician under William III and Queen Anne, who served as Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor between 1693 and 1700, and of his immediate family and descendants. The papers were acquired by Reigate Borough Council with Reigate manor (granted to Somers in 1697) and its records. They represent the largest surviving group of Somers' papers and are of particular value for the light they shed on political affairs in Worcestershire and in Ireland. They also include letters of Somers' family, both to him and between themselves, including his mother Catherine; sister Mary (d.1725) and her husband Charles Cocks (d.1717/18) and children, Mary, Margaret (later Countess of Hardwicke), James and John; and sister Elizabeth (d.1745) and her husband Sir Joseph Jekyll (c.1662-1738).

The papers were originally contained in 16 bundles, now represented by the letters A-P, possibly made up soon after Lord Somers' death. These bundles and the internal order of each have been retained although the contents of some are extremely mixed and they often do not appear to reflect a coherent filing system. Many of the letters have been annotated by Somers with the name of the sender and the date.

In the detailed catalogue descriptions have been placed in chronological (rather than numerical) order.

The papers comprise:

A: letters to Somers from Robert Harley, the Earl of Bath and Robert Liddell, 1690-1702 (10 items)

B: letters to Somers relating to parliamentary elections in Worcestershire, 1693-1702 (22 items)

C: papers relating to the death of HRH the Duke of Gloucester, 1700 (5 items)

D: letters to Somers from archbishops and bishops, 1693-1707 (19 items)

E: miscellaneous letters to Somers, chiefly relating to political affairs, c.1689-1710 (36 items)

F: letters and papers relating to Irish affairs, 1694-1709 (47 items)

G: letters and papers relating to affairs in the North American colonies, c.1693-1709 (10 items)

H: correspondence relating to the settlement of the Palatines, 1709 (14 items)

J: miscellaneous letters and papers of Somers, 1676-1709, and a pedigree, 1740 (28 items)

K: letters to Somers from William Bentinck, Earl of Portland, 1697-1709

L: applications to Somers for employment or assistance, 1693-1707 (30 items)

M: undated letters to Somers, c.1695-[1711] (8 items)

N: miscellaneous 'droll' [sic] letters to Somers, 1693-1709 (8 items)

O (now two bundles O/1 and O/2): letters to Somers from his family and correspondence of members of the Somers and Cocks families, before 1689-c.1745 (105 items)

P: terrier of lands in Ledbury, Herefordshire, 1621 (1 item)

Administrative / Biographical History

John Somers (1651-1716), a Whig lawyer from a Worcestershire family, played a leading part in the defence of the seven bishops in 1688 and in the debates on the post-revolution settlement in 1689, in which year he was knighted. He sat as MP for Worcester between 1689 and 1693 and in 1692 was appointed attorney-general. In March 1693 he became Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, in April 1697 Lord Chancellor of England and in December 1697 was raised to the peerage as Baron Somers of Evesham. He was one of the five members of the Whig 'Junto' which dominated government for much of the reign of William III. He was forced out of office in 1700 but an attempt to impeach him in the following year failed. The Junto retained much influence in the early years of Queen Anne and Somers was appointed a commissioner for the settlement of the treaty of union with Scotland (1707). In November 1708 he returned to office as Lord President of the Council but resigned in September 1710, with the Tories resurgent. He was restored to the privy council by George I in October 1714 but his health was failing. He died on 26 April 1716. His heirs were his two sisters: Mary, married to Charles Cocks of Worcester, and Elizabeth, married to Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls from 1717.

The manorial documents and title deeds comprise the archive of the manors of Reigate and Reigate Priory; deeds of most of the former burgage tenements in the borough; other deeds and documents relating to the estates of the Somers-Cocks family; and a small quantity of documents relating to parliamentary elections prior to the 1832 Reform Act.

The Manors

The manor of Reigate, which had belonged to the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk, was divided in the 1480s between the four co-heirs of Anne Mowbray, the last of the line. By the mid-sixteenth century the four shares had become two moieties - one held by Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, later Earl of Nottingham, the other by the Earl of Derby. The Derby share passed by various sales to William, Viscount Monson, whose wife, the widow of Charles, Earl of Nottingham, had a life interest in the other half. He was one of the judges at the trial of Charles I, and his property after confiscation was acquired by James Duke of York, later James II. The third Earl of Nottingham sold his half to John Goodwyn in 1643, and James II bought it in 1686.

The whole manor remained in the hands of the Crown until 1697, when William III granted it to Sir Joseph Jekyll in trust for Sir John Somers, the Lord Chancellor, later Lord Somers, his brother in law. Somers' heirs were his two sisters, Lady Jekyll and Mary, wife of Charles Cocks. Lady Jekyll was the survivor, and was succeeded by her eldest nephew, James Cocks, MP. The manor descended in his family until the present century. The barony was revived for James' nephew Charles Cocks in 1784, and the second baron, John, was created Earl Somers in 1821. The third Earl's grandson, Mr Henry Charles Somers Augustus Somerset, sold his Reigate property in 1921 and gave the manorial rights to the Borough Council.

The manor and estate of Reigate Priory were acquired by the Howard family after the dissolution, and descended to Elizabeth Countess of Peterborough, granddaughter of Charles Earl of Nottingham. It was purchased from her son's trustees in 1703 by Sir John Parsons, Lord Mayor of London, descended in his family until 1766, and after various sales was acquired by Lord Somers in 1808. Mr Somers Somerset sold the estate in 1921 and Reigate Borough eventually bought it in 1945 (information from VCH Surrey III and W Hooper Reigate: its story through the ages (1945) in which fuller accounts will be found).

The Burgage Tenements

The burgage tenements were the houses within the borough of Reigate which carried a qualification to vote. A considerable number (47 out of over 200) were bought by John Lord Somers or others acting for him (see 371/1/8). Richard Adney, his secretary, was one of those most active on his behalf. After Somers' death the burgate tenements were divided as was the rest of his estate, the Jekyll share descending to the Cocks family after Lady Jekyll died in 1745. In addition Sir Joseph bought several more burgages, which were sold in 1753 by the devisees of his will. Some were bought by John Cocks, the rest by the Hon Charles Yorke on behalf of his father Philip Earl of Hardwicke. Hardwicke married Margaret Cocks, niece of Lord Somers, and these two families gradually bought up almost all the burgage tenements during the eighteenth century. Their influence was great enough for all elections after 1722 to be uncontested, each family nominating one of the two MPs.

Before the 1832 Reform Act the approval of claims to vote lay in the hands of the bailiff of the manor of Reigate, who was traditionally the returning officer. In 1786 when there was a threat of a contest at the next election, it became necessary to ascertain which properties carried the franchise and thus how many votes each side could expect. The Hardwicke agent, William Bryant junior, undertook this on behalf of his employer, compiling a list of all the alleged burgages, tracing their ownership and voting record, and examining their claims to vote. In this list the numbers given to each tenement by Bryant are given in square brackets thus [B6]. Lord Somers opposed this operation, sending a circular letter to his tenants instructing them to refuse admittance to anyone wishing to survey their property (371/13/2). A bitter court case resulted from this (see 371/13/4-8). Besides Bryant's survey (see SHC 445/1) there is a contemporary 'state of the polls', a list of the burgages with names of tenants and voters and voting record (371/13/3).


The main sections of the list are deeds of the manors and of the estate as a whole, manorial records, and deeds of individual burgage tenements (see summary for more detailed analysis). The burgage tenements fall into distinct groups, and the deeds are listed accordingly: those belonging to John Lord Somers (371/4/-), acquired by Sir Joseph Jekyll and his wife (371/5/-), by the Yorke family (371/6/-), and the Cocks family (371/8/-) and jointly by both (371/7/-). The sections are subdivided as seems most appropriate in each case. Somers' properties are listed by street row in the deeds partitioning his estate, and partitioned accordingly. The listing of the deeds of the individual burgages for the most part reflects this. Documents in the other sections are grouped according to the individual who bought the burgages, in chronological order of purchase. The numbers given to each tenement by Bryant in his survey are given in square brackets thus [B6].

A list of old bundle numbers, with the new reference numbers of the document is available on the deposit file.

Documents relating to non-burgage property, estate administration and politics are listed after these sections (371/9/- to 371/13/-) and the list ends with the personal and political papers of John Lord Somers and the Cocks family (371/14/-), for the arrangement of which see the introduction to that section.

Access Information

There are no access restrictions.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Reigate Borough Council in 1965.

Other Finding Aids

An item level description of the archive is available on the Surrey History Centre online catalogue

Related Material

Further records of the manor of Reigate from 1619, including some deeds and papers of the Somers Cocks family, deposited by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, are held as 3537/-.

For William Bryant's survey of burgage tenements, 1786, see 445/1; later copies are also held in the Minet Library, Lambeth. A copy of the plan (not entirely accurate) which accompanied the survey is held as 445/3 and a further copy is at the Minet Library. Papers of Bryant, including relating to Reigate elections, are held as 2164/-. Research papers of Wilfrid Hooper relating to the history of Reigate and including transcripts of some of the manorial records and of the papers of Lord Somers, are held as 2277/-.

Deeds relating to one of the burgage tenements [Bryant no.65], deposited by a descendant of one of the owners, Thomas Tickell, are held as 322/-. 176/5/- comprises a group of papers relating to the election of 1831. A court roll for the manor of Reigate, 1685-96, is held in the National Archives. Hertfordshire Record Office holds some records of the Yorke family's Reigate estates and parliamentary matters (ref D/E Cd). The surviving papers of the first Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Chancellor, are among the Hardwicke papers in the British Library (Add Mss 35, 349, 278). The Cambridgeshire Record Office holds some rentals and other documents relating to Reigate Priory.


For a biography of Somers see W L Sachse, Lord Somers: a Political Portrait (Manchester 1975).

For a pedigree of the Somers and Cocks families see O Manning and W Bray, The History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey, vol I, p.286 (London, 1804-14)

Short biographies of many of the authors of the letters in the Somers papers or persons mentioned in them can by found in The Dictionary of National Biography; in B Henning, ed., The House of Commons, 1660-1690 (London, 1983); and in R Sedgwick, ed., The House of Commons, 1715-1754 (London, 1970).

The Victoria History of the County of Surrey, vol III

Wilfrid Hooper, Reigate: its Story through the Ages (1945)